Thursday, May 26, 2011

Canoe Cove Plant Sale

A reminder for local readers and those visiting PEI this coming weekend.  The annual Canoe Cove Plant Sale will be taking place on Saturday, May 28, 2011, starting at 9am.  The sale will take place at Inman Park.  If you haven't been to the park before I've included a google map of the drive starting from Cornwall.

View Larger Map

The park is a lovely venue, right at the water, with picnic tables and a playground for kids.  If you're hungry the concession will be open as well to grab a cup of coffee or muffin while you browse the tables.

This year the sale includes manure, mushroom compost, seaweed, dahlia bulbs, rhubarb and many many perennials.  To give you a taste, here's some of plants I purchased at last year's sale.


yes, the gregarious plume poppy came from this sale

Another Dahlia

Lady's Mantle

Rhubarb and asparagus plants
Also purchased were chives, Golden Glow, a lilac shrub, butternut tree and MeadowSweet.  Lots of plants to choose from!  I'll be there bright and early Saturday morning, hope to see you there.

p.s.  the event is RAIN or SHINE.  Inman Park has covered space available so you can browse without getting drenched!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Springtime Tour

This last weekend was a long weekend for us Canadians.  Something to do with Queens or beer, depending on how you look at it.  My perspective - more gardening time!  Major projects to complete, in order of priority, were to finish the garden bed around the garage and finish vegetable beds.  Very happy to report the bed around the garage is done (with the exception of any plants that have yet to offer up their services). 

A mossy rock and two old fence posts were dragged out of the hedgerow for some year round interest.  The bird house, inherited with the property, found a place to sit.  The compost placed there last winter was dug in, more bags of manure added and finally, plants.  The plume poppy made it's transition (not a minute too soon, you should have seen the runners on that thing!), a hardy geranium named Samobor, a large blue hosta previously residing by the front porch was divided and planted and hollyhock seeds thrown in.

Lurking around the corner on the backside of the garage I placed the Golden Glow.  A funny spot for it maybe, who will look back there?  Hubby asked me if I realized that spot would have full sun all day.. .. Yes.  Which would also reflect off the garage....  Sure did.  I explained that the golden glow will happily reach 6 feet high in those conditions.  ahhh, yes.

you think it's big now..
The lily of the valley, despite their mishap, survived and were also placed in this bed to avoid future mutilation.

Next up the veggie beds.  I had some reservations that I put too much peat moss in my raised beds last year so all dirt was removed from the boxes and more manure added.  Several new boxes also made their way into the garden and were quickly filled with strawberry plants.  A few seeds were planted - Tyee spinach, borage and lavatera.  It may be too early yet but I planted a few of each just to experiment.  Unfortunately there was too much work here to accomplish in a weekend.  Another box is necessary, a trellis of sorts for the tomatoes, more digging of new in-ground beds.  I did as much as I could and then wandered away.  Part of the fun is walking around and checking up on the other characters.  Like this pretty white violet beginning to emerge.

The leaves of apple trees beginning to unfurl

I could not resist taking dozens of photographs of the lawn.  The purple flowers have returned!

Last year I thought this plant was ajuga but I question that now.  Regardless of the name it has a very strong smell and the bees like it very much.  They also like dandelions.

I think we're growing some of the largest dandelions known to man.  I've never seen flower heads quite so large.  Perhaps it was all the rain?

The muscari are also dotted through the lawn and the shades of purple, yellow and green are exceedingly pleasant. 

Some other characters have made their spring appearance.

What's a yard without a crow?

or a rock crab for that matter?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies

Our long slow, and cold, spring turned a corner this week.  Like someone turned up the dial and we went from 6 degrees to 22 degrees.  I changed my fleece bed sheets to cool cotton ones.  I laughed at myself how I forget the climate here.  Even though my head knows I live in a new climate, my body forgets.  The sudden rush of heat and humidity shocked me.  Oh yes!  that's why we have ceiling fans in every bedroom.  It gets unbearably hot here in summer.  But just as quickly the dial was turned back down.  Oh make up your mind won't you!

The sudden change in weather means I'm terribly short on time.  My vegetable garden is calling to be planted and yet I haven't even finished creating the new beds.  Indoor seedlings still haven't been fully hardened off so they will have to wait at least a week for planting.  That will buy me some time.

Bleeding hearts are only now starting to reach their height, flowers beginning to form.  Thank goodness I mulched this bed a month ago and haven't needed to worry about it since.

Alongside the bleeding hearts I planted Tiarella in this bed last summer.  All plants have survived the winter and are beginning to push out new foliage and flower buds.  Small yet but one day they will spread.

A small amount of clean up has taken place in the knot garden.  As I looked at it the other evening I realized the shape is suddenly visible.  Quick, get the camera!

The bones are showing through and it looks quite pleasing.  A small victory but I'll take what I can.  and now I must run.  While the weather holds I must work as quickly as I can.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Changing Landscape

When we told people we were leaving British Columbia to move to Prince Edward Island there were a variety of responses. Why would you do that? Won't you miss us? What happens if it doesn’t work out? What if you don’t like it? Some of these questions were based on people’s fears for us. And we also harboured some of those fears. What if I couldn’t find a job? What if the bank wouldn’t grant us a mortgage? What if we hated it? Despite these concerns I never once doubted that we needed to try because I had learned something in my former garden that gave me the confidence to move ahead.

When I first started gardening I was paralyzed by all the decisions that needed to be made. What plants would look good together? What if the plants got eaten by deer? What if they didn’t look as good in reality as they did in my head? What if they die? I felt like I couldn’t plant anything for all the fears of what might happen. Eventually something had to be planted though and yes, the deer ate it, plants died, and the combinations weren’t necessarily the height of fashion. But I learned so much. The conditions various plants favoured, what plants the deer loved to eat, what combinations I preferred. The single most important thing I learned was You Can Always Change Your Mind.  Seriously.  It’s allowed. Your first decision might not be the right one. In fact, it might be completely wrong. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make another decision and try something else. You should never feel like you’re allowed only one choice. That kind of thinking will render you completely inert and unable to make any decisions at all. Sometimes the best decision is to just make a decision.

I’ve had to remind myself of this advice many times in the last year when working in this new garden. Just make a decision, any decision and do something. That action will snowball and more ideas will pop up. I can always make changes later so don’t stress about the small details.

With this in mind I thought I would talk about my process working on the back garden.  I haven't got a formal name for this area yet because, well, it keeps changing.  It all started with a little plant called Plume Poppy

If you've read this blog before you know I purchased a plume poppy last year at a spring garden sale.  I had no idea what it was or what it would become.  By the end of the summer the plume poppy had grown from 6 inches to 4 feet and it needed a new home.  I decided to put it behind the garage and began work on creating a new bed just for this plant.  Over the winter that plan festered in my brain.  I thought about what other plants would look good in the poppy.  I thought about how those large leaves looked so tropical.  I looked at other plants that survive in temperate climates but have a tropical air to them.  What if I created a tropical-esque hideaway behind the garage?  We discussed all sorts of ideas for the garage.  It could be a workshop, large garden shed, or summer cottage.  We could have large trees and big leafed perennials to create a hidden oasis.  I started drawing up some designs like this one.

The hedgerow could be changed to a flowering border with rhododendrons and magnolias and a large catalpa.  On the opposite side a large oval bed could hold honey locust and other brightly flowered perennials and shrubs.  I was hooked on this idea and started to plan work on the hedgerow.  The first thing would be to remove the diseased plums that stood there.  I decided to do some reading about hedgerows and discovered how they provide shelter for birds and roads for wildlife.  How they produce valuable food, and create a windbreak so that topsoil doesn't blow away.  Suddenly a flowering shrub border didn't seem so appropriate.  Perhaps I needed to add native plants?  Staghorn sumac is native and has a tropical air to it.  And bayberry has lovely dark green shiny leaves.  I considered that I could possibly have my lush green border but with natives as well.

Several weeks ago work finally began on this project.  The plums were cut down and burned and I began raking up the fallen pieces of branchs and black knot fungus from the ground.  Almost instantly though my plans started to go sideways.  The skies opened up in April and we had rain.  For a month straight now it has rained every day.  So much rain that I was unable to finish cleaning the hedgerow of the diseased plums.  The last pile of branches is still waiting to be burned.  The raking is incomplete and branches and fungus still litter the ground.  I am not ready to start planting.  This is an issue because my local native nursery will only sell bareroot plants until this coming weekend.  Once the trees leaf out the nursery will sell only potted stock at a higher cost.  

The second issue that came up was the rental of a sod cutter.  This machine was rented and miraculously it didn't pour that day.  However, we had much work to do and at the end of a very long day we began work on the large bed that would be opposite the hedgerow.  This is what happened.

We let the grass grow in this area last year and the roots are very deep.  And very difficult to cut.  Instead of a large oval bed we now have a narrow strip in the shape of a smiley face.  Definitely not what I had decided on.  Now, I have no hedgerow, no oval bed and the garden I dreamed of is nowhere to be seen.  What to do?  Make a decision, any decision.

I decided to finish the bed for the plume poppy as planned last fall.

The work on the hedgerow will continue over the summer and by next spring I should be ready for the purchase of trees and shrubs.  I am still favouring a lush green secluded area but more native plants will be added to the mix.  I will have a year to make a clear plan for this garden.  And the large oval bed that was to hold so many trees and plants?  I can't let the small strip that we did clear go to waste so instead of trees we're planting a row of giant sunflowers.  Why not?

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Cannot Tell A Lie

I wasn't going to tell you this.  I was going to pretend like it didn't happen.  You wouldn't notice if only half my seedlings made it outdoors.  But I can't lie to you.  And if it helps someone else then my work here is done.

It happened like this.

Hubby yells at me from piano room 'what happened to your plants?'

I come to look and find this

(very sorry for the truly awful photos folks, it was late and all I could find was the camera phone)

Help!  We have a tomato down!

I immediately ran for the watering can and came racing back and frantically started pouring water into the tray.   'I FORGOT!!!!'

Now, for any spouses who might be reading this, this is NOT the way to respond

hubby says 'now why did you do that?'

I have spent the last 8 weeks nurturing these seedlings.  They are my babies and I was seriously distraught.  And I might add, armed with a full watering can.  He quickly ran from the room.  But the question is actually a good one.  Why the heck didn't I water my plants?

It's true, I'm not very good with house plants in general.  I do tend to forget about watering.  But I love my seeds and at the end of winter, when I haven't seen green in months, starting seeds is extremely exciting.  When I first plant my seeds I don't miss a second to peek in, add some water and check on their growth.  But after two months of monitoring plants the weather has warmed up, the garden is beckoning and frankly, the shine has worn off.  I start to forget. 

These basil plants shriveled in on themselves from lack of water
Don't let weeks of hard work waste away!!  Now when we're in the home stretch remember to begin hardening off your plants.  Take them out of doors each day and give them a little fresh air and sun.  Start slow at a half hour or an hour in a cool shady spot so the plants can get used to feeling the breeze and don't get sun burned.  Lengthen the time every few days adding a half hour here and there.  Increase the amount of sun and keep watering!  Those little pots dry out quickly, especially when large plants are inside them.

Most of my plants have now recovered but I would not recommend duplicating my actions.  Coming back from the brink of death is hard on a plant and their health has now been compromised.  They might make it through the season but I wouldn't be surprised to see these plants suffer later on, either attacked by bugs or catching disease.  Better to maintain healthy plants from seed to maturity and give them the best chance for survival.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies

Today's Tragedy - rotten Blogger.  They shut down the system, deleted my Knot Garden post and the comments.  They said the post would be reinstated and it was, sort of.  They put the post back in my drafts folder.  But it wasn't the published post.  It was a much earlier draft.  Would I need to re-write it again?

Triumph - some searching on Google gave me an idea.  I searched my blog and the title 'Knot Garden' on Google.  A cached copy of the post appeared.  I was able to copy and paste and voila, post restored.  A little work was needed to add the links and photos but we're back up and running.  Comments were much the same.  I have them emailed to me so it was a matter of going into email, thank goodness my deleted folder hadn't been cleared, and copying, pasting.

Crisis averted.  Now we can get back to gardening....

The Knot Garden

As you know from my last post I've been doing a bit of work on the bed I now call the knot garden.  This bed was already here when we purchased the property and was quite perplexing to me at first.  Initially it was so covered in weeds that I had a hard time just diciphering what shape it was.

It was hard to tell where the weeds ended and the flower began
After much walking about and scraping away at things I finally concluded the original shape of the bed looks like this.
The larger rectangle and green edging marks out the future boundaries of this area.
A long rectangle with triangle and diamond patterns made using brick and large pieces of wood.  Flower beds were created inside the triangles and diamonds and the spaces between were used as walkways, covered in smooth river stone.

Beneath the falling malva you can make out the stone path
Initially I found this area to be a conundrum.  Located midway between the house and the garage but closer to the road than anything else.  It is surrounded by nothing but lawn in a kind of a no-man's land.  I wasn't partial to the design of the bed or the location and for a while considered actually dismantling the entire bed and starting over.  This is one of the problems when you inherit a garden.  Sometimes ideas don't translate.   Do you keep the garden inherited or do you try to change it?

One of the issues that bugged me about this garden was the plants contained in it.  Large shrubs like spirea, potentilla, hydrangea and wygelia stood out sharply against the lawn.  Perennials like maltese cross and jacob's ladder seemed an odd mix with rock plants like candytuf and rock cress.  The plants lacked cohesion to each other and to my brain.  Nothing seemed to fit together and against the vastness of the lawn I was perplexed.

Candytuft is all but hidden by the weeds and dwarfed by the potentilla
Over the past year I've been letting this garden percolate in my mind.  If I remove the large shrubs and perennials the entire look would change.  The small rock plants would shine among the rocks and look like a rock garden?  That might be interesting.  It would also show off the intricate pattern of the bed.  It would certainly be a lot less work than trying to remove the bed entirely.  During my internet travels I came across the knot garden made by Frances @ FaireGarden.  Inspiration struck and the fuzzy outline of an idea began.  I searched more.  Proper knot gardens seem to be particularly fussy and not quite what I envision.  I saw the term italian garden and it rang some bells.  A search for herb gardens found less complex designs and appeared more accessible.  While I haven't solved the riddle of this garden bed I have noticed one particular item.  Many of the gardens I have been looking at have a frame and that is something my bed seems to be distinctly lacking.  This bed appears in the middle of nowhere with  nothing to introduce it and give you the sense that you are looking at a separate area.  If you look at the drawing above you will see that I have outlined the knot garden area in a very large rectangle and added green rows on either side.  Adding a border would create the necessary frame to make this garden it's own area and define it.  I think I'm on to something but obviously there is much more thinking to be done here.  All in good time.  I am in no hurry to tackle this area.  There are other areas that need my attention right now and I have years to define exactly what this area will become.  It's nice to dream though.

Do you have a knot garden?  Do you dream of one?  What does it look like?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

I've been caught up in spring cleaning the garden lately and haven't been attending to the computer as much.  It's time to let you in on the action around here.  Hold on to your seats as this is a long one.

A Whole Lotta Weeding Going On

I realized last year that I let the weeds get the better of me.  I was new to the property and didn't know what would appear in the flower beds so I waited for several months before doing any weeding.  By the time I decided it was safe to weed the plants were as big as I was and their removal was a losing battle.  Take the knot garden (that's what I've decided to call it now.  It was previously known as that big ass rectangle in the middle of the yard).  It started out like this last spring.

and by summer it had become this

Pulling 5 foot tall goldenrod was impossible.  Although I did manage to make some headway and cleared out two triangles.

Two front triangles were weeded
It's incredibly difficult to get an overhead shot of this bed so I've done a drawing so you can better understand the shape of it.

I'm no artist but you get the idea.  It's meant to be a very formal bed with rock paths and angled beds.  This spring, before it gets any uglier, I decided to weed and mulch the same two front triangles so I don't have to repeat that again.  I also started weeding the first diamond.  Why only one?  Because this garden holds a backbreaking task that haunts me in my dreams.  Under each triangle and diamond there is landscaping fabric.  Weeds and plants alike have grown over it, under it and through it.  Removing this fabric is like neurosurgery.  Exacto knives and scissors have to be employed.  There is time and energy only for one diamond at this juncture.  I have considered clearing the pathway as well but mostly I think this will just be cutting down weeds as opposed to removing them.  No landscaping fabric was used in the paths but under those rocks are two sheets of plastic.  Equally or possibly even more frustrating than the fabric.

Oh yes, and I found the end of the hose.  Well, sort of.  The story is that last year I noticed a hose snaking around the rocks and tried to figure out where it ended.  Buried under weeds it was never found.  So this spring that was it, I was finding the end.  Here it is.

Somewhat as I suspected.  There is no end.  Instead it goes into the ground.  But where does it come out?  Who the heck knows?  We've been here a year and a half now and I've yet to find the other end of that hose.  So I cut it off.  After spending several winters out in the elements I doubt this hose is much good anymore anyway (in fact I can see the voles attacked it thinking it was food, there are little gnaw marks ornamenting it's length).  Now it's being used to mark out new beds.

The side bed (this really needs a better name) was also weeded and mulched.  Again, the premise was, get the weeds while they're small so you don't have to go through this again in a month when they can fight back. 

This bed is mainly dominated by bleeding hearts and I've thrown in the odd plant just to see how it would do.  I'm reluctant to take any real steps to occupy this bed as exterior work needs to be done on the house and any plants would likely get trampled in the course of it.  In the meantime I consider keeping the weeds at bay the best compromise.

And finally the entrance bed was weeded.  This bed started life last year looking like this.

A bit of clearing got done and plant purchases were dumped here for lack of a better place to put them.  Eventually some expansion happened but not enough to suit me.

We spent almost a whole summer trying to expand this bed and still didn't get it finished.  This year I want better results.  The goal is to increase this bed by at least another third by renting a sod cutter.  In anticipation of a larger bed I've begun removing some of the nicer plants from the knot garden and placing them in this bed.  Bell flowers and jacob's ladder have made the switch and when the hostas appear they will be moved as well.

The Back Breakers

Big beds require big rocks.  Lucky me we've got rocks to spare.  Last spring I found that the hedgerow was full of large stones, likely from an old foundation.  I thought they would be fantastic to use in the beds but when I went looking for them in mid-summer they were buried in this.

Good luck finding anything in there.  So now that the plants are all dead it was time to move stones.  Hubby was enlisted for this chore as some of these are a two person job.

I'm not entirely sure how they will be used but I'm thinking of a) as a walkway through the garden beds; b) stepping stones for access to large beds; or c) building up areas of the beds and creating some different levels.  No matter what I do, these stones need to be moved now as they will become inaccessible very quickly.

Hubby was also enlisted for that other annual back breaking chore.  Tree planting.

There are several pockets of trees on our property and small seedlings can be found in these areas.  Thus far we have dug up 16 small trees from these pockets and redistributed them to more open spaces.  Eventually I would love to see a windbreak of trees along our roadside and filling in our yard.  The trees moved included two maples of unknown heritage, an elderberry, white spruce, white birch, red osier dogwood and what I believe is a grey birch.

Bits and Bobs

The compost has finally thawed and I'm turning, turning every chance I get.  I'd love to get my hands on some compost for new flower and veggie beds.  Not to mention the pile next to the bin has grown to catastrophic proportions due to excess sawdust from hubby's shop and ashes from our wood boiler.  It would be nice to get this extra material into the bins so it's slightly less messy looking in that area.

And finally.  Remember those sweet little seedlings that were planted not so long ago.  Well they're all grown up now and beginning to make their way into the great outdoors. 

The process of hardening off has started.  Presently these plants are spending a half hour a day in the great outdoors and I'll be slowly building the time up from there.  Some of the plants have done well and some, as you might notice, are complete wimps.  Of the twenty tomatoes at least 4 can't stand on their own two feet. Once again, thank goodness for overseeding as I can remove these weak plants and keep the strong sturdy ones instead.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spring Flowers

I was moaning recently that I had no flowers except my tiny squills.  How could I whine when the squill are so lovely.

Then I went outside today and realized, flowers have begun to appear, so now I really can't complain that I have no blooms to share.

I spotted the first dandelion of the season.

My very first plant purchase for my garden last year was this common lilac, now producing buds.

The muscari bulbs I planted under the birch trees are producing beautiful buds too.

And the first violet of the season turned it's lovely face into the sun.

Even the ditches are full of flowers, like those on this willow.

Let the flower season begin!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies

Welcome to a Friday edition of Triumphs and Tragedies!  I realize I've been a bit tardy in past weeks so here's me working on getting this post out at the beginning of the weekend instead of the end.  First up some announcements.

If you live in PEI please be advised that the Women's Institute is having it's annual Roadside Cleanup on Saturday May 14, 2011.  After a long winter the ditches are looking pretty pitiful so please do your part and get out on the road and start cleaning up.  Complimentary bags are available from your local Women's Institute members or click here for a listing of other locations where bags can be picked up.
Mark your calendars as I have it on good authority that the annual Canoe Cove Plant Sale will be taking place on Saturday, May 28, 2011 at Inman Park in Canoe Cove.  Mushroom compost, manure, seaweed plus plenty of perennials will be for sale.  I will post a reminder closer to the date of the sale with more details.
Canoe Cover Plant Sale 2010
And now for a Triumph.  In my former garden I attempted to grow Lily of the Valley.  I had, what I thought, were the right conditions and put in a mail order for some roots.  They did not survive.  Not to be deterred I transplanted some roots from my mother's garden.  They didn't live either.  So I tried again.  And again not a plant managed to come up.  I was pretty disturbed by this chain of events because whenever I read about Lily of the Valley the information was that these plants are invasive and will grow in any condition.  Yet I managed to successively kill them one after another.  At last year's spring plant sales I purchased some Lily of the Valley.  Surely this time it would grow?  I've waited and waited and the plants were not coming up.  I thought I had killed them yet again until just a day ago I saw tiny shoots popping through the ground.  I've finally succeeded in growing Lily of the Valley!

Hang on to that feeling of elation folks because you know what follows next.  Today's Tragedy.  Jody ran my tiny sprouts over with the lawn tractor.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Sea of Spring Bulbs

There is nothing quite so beautiful as a sea of bulbs spreading across a lawn or field.  The colour just sings to you. 

Like this

What do you mean you don't see anything?  I planted 75 bulbs of Siberian Squill across my front lawn last fall.  They have created a brilliant blue sea, a welcome sight to one and all.

Oh okay we'll get a little closer shall we...


No!  oh fine

There now you can make them out.  Still fuzzy you say?

Surely you can see them now?  Okay we'll just lay down on the ground here for a better shot ...

This dainty flower is the Siberian Squill.  Doesn't 75 bulbs sound like an awful lot of flowers?  If you bought 75 trees you'd sure notice but each bulb produces just a couple dainty flowers and spread across a large area they look very insignificant.  Now in all honesty I knew 75 bulbs would be a small drop in the bucket but I couldn't afford to buy the amount I really needed so this is a project that will take a few years.  My plan is to continue purchasing 100 or so bulbs each fall and keep adding to the group.  Siberian Squill are also known to seed themselves so my hope is that they will eventually begin to fill in the lawn by themselves.  Eventually that sea of blue will happen but it will take some long term thinking to get there.